Monday, June 6, 2011

The Dolly Parton of cakes

I trawl through food websites on a daily basis. My favourite sites are Chow and Serious Eats for their product reviews, food slideshows and handy tips for novice cooks like me. But what I find most interesting about these sites are their user forums. 

The discussion thread I keep going back to is "50 Desserts that Every Cook Should Know" from Chow.

As a majority of the users who contribute to this forum are from the US, red velvet cake gets mentioned quite often. I've made red velvet cupcakes before, but they were neither red nor successful. So being a public holiday today, I decided to give it another go.

According to the ever-trusty source Wikipedia, red velvet cake originated from the Southern states of America; “It’s the Dolly Parton of cakes: a little bit tacky, but you love her”. 

Red Velvet Cupcakes
(Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker)

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon red food colouring 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

  1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Turn mixer to high and add  the egg.  Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring to make a thick paste.  Add to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined.  You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
  4. Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk.  Add half of the flour and mix until combined.  Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour.  Beat on high until smooth.
  5. Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar.  Turn to high and beat a few more minutes.
  6. Spoon batter into a paper lined cupcake baking pan and bake at 325 F for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.
  7. Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them of a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
I paired it off with a vanilla buttercream, instead of a traditional cream cheese frosting.

Buttercream Frosting
(Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking)


  • 2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk or light cream


  1. In an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. 
  2. Add the vanilla extract. 
  3. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. 
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).
  5.  Add a little more milk or sugar, if needed. 

Makes about 12 cupcakes.

Print-friendly recipe here.

The cupcake recipe is from the Hummingbird Bakery and this helpful video runs you through the recipe. I also tried frosting the cupcakes as they do in Magnolia Bakery and watched this video for help, but as you can see, I didn't quite achieve the famous Magnolia "swirl".

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